Month: January, 2007

Adrienne’s Pizza Bar

Thursday, January 4th, 2007 | All Things, Eats

New Yorkers love their pizza. I am no exception, and I particularly love discovering excellent pizza in unexpected places. The Financial District is fortunate to have Adrienne’s Pizza Bar, a stylish joint venture between Forest Hills pizza purveyor Nick Angelis (of Nick’s Pizza) and the Poulakakos family, the father-and-son team many credit with the Old Stone Street renaissance.  Their mini-empire also includes Financier Pâtisserie and the perenially-packed post-work tavern, Ulysses. (Next up for the Poulakakos men: a 24-hour diner.)

Stone Street

Adrienne’s is a solid notch or two above the typical Wall Street-area pizzeria. Weekdays at lunchtime, the elegant narrow space is packed with suits clamoring for a seat at the long, polished bar, or among the limited tables lining the wall. In front of almost every patron rests a flat tin tray of newly-popular grandma-style pizza ($15) with a dizzying variety of colorful toppings ($3 apiece): from the usual pepperoni, mushroom, roasted peppers and onions, to broccoli to prosciutto to sun-dried tomatoes.

According to Wikipedia, grandma pizza — a thin-crusted variation on a Sicilian pizza, made with fresh garlic and chopped tomatoes — owes its culinary origins to Long Island. Some attribute the “invention” more specifically to King Umberto’s in Elmont, though the pie’s true birthplace continues to be a matter of some debate.

The Village Voice dubbed Adrienne’s the “Perfect Downtown Pizza” — and indeed, our thickly mushroom-topped pie arrived perfectly hot and crisp, with superbly charred crusts and creamy, fresh mozzarella over bright, tart sauce.

Adriennes Mushroom Pizza

Adriennes Mushroom Pizza

Like all the best pizza joints in the city — and in spite of what you may have read elsewhere — Adrienne’s does not sell its popular pizza by the slice. According to the manager (whom I asked that afternoon), it just “got too crazy.” And hey, they don’t have to.

Although pizza is the acknowledged headliner, the restaurant is not just about the pizza.

One last look at the Equitable Building tree on this, the 11th day of Christmas:

Equitable Life Tree

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Tres Amigos

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007 | All Things, Film

After our standby sushi and sake, we set out for the sold-out screening of Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno). Earlier in the week, I had confused the director of the R-rated fable (Guillermo del Toro) with the man who directed Children of Men  (Alfonso Cuarón). The two are actually longtime friends — Cuarón was also a producer for del Toro’s film — and part of a trio of Mexican directors, who have gained recent acclaim in international cinema. The third, Alejandro González Iñárritu, directed Babel.

The compadres, all born within three years of each other, shared a camaraderie long before they achieved early success with their debut features, Cuarón for Love in the Time of Hysteria  (1991), Del Toro for Cronos  (1993) and González Iñárritu for Amores Perros  (2000), which I had the pleasure of screening at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1999. The three appeared on The Charlie Rose Show  to discuss their strong creative partnership and frequent collaborations. Despite their similar backgrounds and socially conscious agendas, each director has found his voice through a starkly different form of cinematic expression. Del Toro is best known for his fantasy/horror work like Mimic, The Devil’s Backbone  and Hellboy, while González Iñárritu has focused exclusively on dark dramas with multiple, intersecting storylines, as in 21 Grams — prompting some critics to question whether he is capable of linear narration. Cuarón, the elder mentor of the group with the longest track record, has worked in multiple genres at every level of production, from the low-budget indie hit Y Tu Mamá También  to the major studio serial Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Columbus Avenue Lights

Pan’s Labyrinth  was remarkable and visually stunning, meshing hauntingly disturbing images with a complex story about the enchantment of youth, in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. I was surprised to read later that the film was shot on a budget of just $15 million. CafeFX‘s Everett Burrell, collaborating as a co-producer, provided the firm’s VFX services at a deep discount, which kept costs low.

Ivana Baquero is unnervingly convincing as young Ofelia, the girl caught between two worlds. Doug Jones plays both the titular faun (not Pan, as the English translation suggests) and the faceless, corpse-colored, child-and-fairy-eating Pale Man — roles he had to learn phonetically, as the only non-Spanish speaker on the set.

Critics are almost unanimously united in their raves of the film. And just this week, Pan’s Labyrinth  was named best picture of the year by the National Society of Film Critics. Cuarón’s Children of Men  was honored for best cinematography.

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No LIta

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007 | All Things, Eats, NYC History

Remember when Little Italy encompassed more than just a couple of blocks around Mulberry Street just North of Canal?

Seasons Greetings

Little Italy Lights

When I was attending Chinese school in the 80s, Canal Street marked the border between Little Italy and Chinatown. With an influx of new immigrants from mainland China, particularly Fuzhou, Chinatown expanded to the North into the Old World enclave, and East along East Broadway and Canal into streets that used to be considered part of the Lower East Side.

The wretched 1987 film China Girl  dates to the bygone era when Canal Street was still in dispute. The film was promoted as a cross between Mean Streets and Romeo and Juliet — or West Side Story, without the music or dancing. In it, Chinese teenager Tyan-Hwa (Sari Chang) falls in love with Tony (Richard Panebianco), a pizza delivery boy from Little Italy. (He’s Eye-talian, see?) When a Chinese restaurant opens on the wrong side of Canal, tensions flare between the rival Chinese and Italian gangs, headed by Russell Wong and David Caruso, respectively. Yes, that  David Caruso.

Do I need to tell you how it all ends? Or which David Bowie song was used on the soundtrack? (Hint: it was named the “Best Male Video of the Year” at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards in 1984.)

I was reminded when snapping these photos North of Canal that Joe’s Ginger, my onetime favorite source for pork-and-crab soup dumplings (xiao long bao), has closed — presumably not owing to Italian gang pressures.

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